Martin Art Gallery
Ken Vavrek: Past & Present
August 26 – September 26, 2015
Untitled 1213, 2013,
Glazed Stoneware 39.5" x 49.5" x 3"
For four decades, Ken Vavrek has energized the walls of a room with his exceptional abstractions. Fullness, complexity, and vigor infuse his work. Vavrek’s carefully conceived compositions appeal to the intellect, but they also inspire awe for his prowess in handling clay and glazes at a large scale. Vavrek is the mastermind of his stoneware reliefs, but look more closely, and a feeling emerges that energies or forces, such as gravity or entropy, have also shaped his compositions. Vavrek’s forms and marks feel paused, but the forces associated with them feel insistent enough to effect change-gradually or perhaps in an instant. Feelings arise about what might happen next, and this anticipation adds emotional strength to Vavrek’s work. Vavrek groups his wall reliefs into three phases, which he has titled. He started his first phase, the Desert Series, after a trip to the Southwest desert in 1975. He wanted to express his emotional experiences about canyons, buttes, and rocks instead of sculpting what he had directly observed. (1) This work established his long-term commitment to creating large and unique sculptural reliefs. In 1995 he abruptly moved away from any vestige of representation and organized abstracted forms using basic rectilinear understructures. These Sculptural Abstractions balance asymmetry in different ways and have the highest relief of the three series. Vavrek gradually moved to the Pictorial Abstractions, his current phase, around 2008. These sectioned wall reliefs and platters differ significantly from the previous period because they use brush strokes and colors to energize surfaces that hardly lift from the wall.
Excerpt from Ken Vavrek: Past & Present catalog essay by Marian Pritchard